Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rangers, Legends and Myths

"Brave too much," said an American Indian who rode with Texas Ranger John Coffee "Jack" Hays in early 1800s Texas.

I can envision Gerard Butler playing the role of Hays. What do you think?

The Indian quoted above who rode with John C. Hays may have been Lipan Apache Chief, Cuelgas de Castro. A small group of Lipan Apache are secondary characters in my story, "Are You Going to the Dance?" in the Civil War anthology Northern Roses and Southern Belles.

I write western historical romance for which I'm always taking inspiration from my Texas family's history. My great great grandmother came to Texas with farmers from Alsace Lorraine, France, and settled in the early 1840s near San Antonio in a place they named Castroville. The settlers were accompanied to that area by John C. Hays and five of his Rangers. My great great grandmother learned to speak the Lipan Apache language and traded with a small group that lived close by their homestead. I can imagine that on the journey from San Antonio she began learning their language from the Lipan Chief, who only rode with Ranger Hays.

According to an article by Mike Cox for the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame, Hays helped to build one of the Ranger traditions ... toughness mixed with a reliance on the latest technology. In the case of the Rangers that technology would be the Colt revolver.

"They were men who could not be stampeded," said Col. Homer Garrison, Jr.

The myth of the Texas Ranger lends itself to intriguing other-worldly beings. One of my novellas, under my pseudonym, Jenette DuPris, features a hero who is a Texas Ranger and a werewolf.

It has been said that a Texas Ranger could "ride like a Mexican, trail like an Indian, shoot like a Tennessean, and fight like the devil." During the war with Mexico, in 1846, the Rangers were labeled "Los diablos Tejanos," the Texas Devils.

It was normal for every Ranger to carry more than one pistol, or revolver, rifle, and knife, one of which was usually a Bowie knife. In the time of the Civil War, frontier protection was provided in Texas by the Rangers, whose pistols or rifles proved to be the "legal authority."

In 1874, the Texas legislature created the Frontier Battalion, led by Major John B. Jones, and an organization called Special Forces, under Capt. Leander McNelly. Many of the Ranger legends grew from this lawless time in the Old West.

I've enjoyed stories about Rangers and their myths. They always inspire my imagination and make for some great hours of reading as well as writing, both nonfiction and fiction. What do you think? Do you have a favorite story, true or mythical, about a Ranger?

Jeanmarie Hamilton, Romancing the West


Out now:
Northern Roses and Southern Belles
Pure Heaven
Moonlight Desperado

Sources: Handbook of Texas On-Line; Texas Ranger Hall of Fame


  1. JEANMARIE--of course, I loved your post. I live in Hays County, named for Jack C. Hays, Texas Ranger--this was his home at one time. On the courthouse square, there's a big bronze statue of Captain Jack, holding a rifle high in the air, on a rearing horse. It's so good! He was tough, that's certain. It was also said he would go to hell to capture his prey if he had to. He left a huge legacy in the form of a large family. They had a reunion recently to celebrate his life. Did you know in his middle years he moved to California and dug for gold? I believe he died there. I enjoyed your good work and research--Celia

  2. Jeanmarie--I love Texas Ranger stories--I just plain love Texas, too. :) Your family is so interesting and I can see where you get your inspiration for your stories!

  3. Thanks Celia! I'll have to see that statue of Captain Jack. :-) What an interesting man. His wife was a brave woman.

  4. Marin,
    Thanks! Yes, they were adventurous people and that makes for good stories. I feel like they settled in Texas in the early days, and yet John C. Hays had already been in Texas for many years when he led their group to their new home. Those guys were tough! :-)

  5. Hi, Jeanmarie! That was a great story and drawing from your family history made it that much more realistic.

    Love the old photo!

  6. Susan,
    Thanks so much! I enjoyed your Civil War story too in the anthology Northern Roses and Southern Belles.

    Glad you like the old photo! Hays looks a little untamed in that photo. :-)

  7. I love Texas Ranger stories. I admit, it all goes back to The Lone Ranger mythos.

  8. Isabel,
    They certainly left us with lots of inspiration for the heros in our stories. :-)

  9. I love anything to do with the Texas Rangers! Great information, JeanMarie, and as always, I love how you draw from family history to make it even more fascinating.

    Great blog!

  10. Thanks Nicole!
    I can't help drawing from the great family stories my grandmother told me. :-)

  11. Hi Jeanmarie, your family stories are fascinating. There's a lot of inspiration in them for future books. It makes me want to look into my own ancestors. From what I know, they came over from Sweden and settled in Iowa. I know all their names and birth and death dates. The only ancestral artifact I have is a spinning wheel.


  12. Jeanmarie,

    All I know about the Texas Rangers is that one of my husband's ancestors, Col. Benjamin Franklin Terry settled it. It seems he was a Colonel in the Confederate Army and led Terry's Texas Rangers. We'd have to dig to see what his connection is, but his father and grandmother told him the story, so I have to believe it's true.

    Good article!

    Bobbye, w/a Daryn Cross

  13. Jane,
    I heard recently that there was a Swedish colony in Texas as well. I think it's wonderful that you have a spinning wheel from your family heirlooms. I can imagine incorporating the spinning wheel into a story. :-)

  14. Hi Bobbye,
    Yes, I've read a little about Terry's Texas Rangers while researching Texas Rangers. They took part in many of the Civil War battles. It's said about Texans at that time that they didn't like to walk and rode their horses when they needed to get somewhere. The Rangers all provided their own horses, before and after the Civil War.
    Thanks for coming by! Enjoy your research!

  15. Great post, Jeanmarie. I think the Texas Rangers fascinate people all over the world. I love that you know so much family history and use it in your writing. I do mine, too.

  16. Yes, absolutely, Jeanmarie, Gerard Butler can play any role and play it well. ;)

    Great information on the rangers. I love hearing about this timeperiod and how our country became as great as it is.

  17. Caroline and Paisley, thanks for coming by. :-)

    Yes, the Texas Rangers are an inspiration to so many people worldwide.

    Paisley, glad you agree with me on Gerry Butler playing the Texas Ranger. :-) Yes, he can play any part.

  18. Gerard Butler, eh? Well, as the owner/administrator of a fan site for the talented Scot, I definitely can see it! :)

    I really enjoyed your post, Jeanmarie. I have a place in my heart for the original Texas Rangers...and the baseball team isn't bad either. GO, RANGERS! But back to your post, thanks for the history lesson about Capt. Hays, and your great great grandmother.

  19. Paty and Ashley, thanks for your comments. :-)

    Ashley, I didn't know you were the administrator of a Gerard Butler fan site. How interesting. You must have fun with that!

    I took Texas history in high school, it was required, ;-) but I really didn't appreciate it until I started writing and researching my Texas roots.

    Have a great evening everyone!

  20. It is fascinating to see the difference between life in Texas in this time period as against what was happening in Europe. Your ancestors must have had quite a shock when they arrived in their new home. A good one, but such a huge change!

  21. Ladies, ladies, ladies! No, no, Gerard Butler cannot be Jack Coffee Hays! Not to disparage your hero, but ol' Cap'n Jack was a wiry, hard man with a lean sculptured face. Think Sam Eliot or Robert Duvall or even Daniel Day-Lewis. I loved Gerard Butler in Phantom, but...as Jack Hays? Okay, you have your pick and I have mine! I say....Daniel Day Lewis--in his younger days, of course.
    Jeanmarie, I loved your post, and I enjoyed all the comments. Good research and photos. Celia

  22. Hi Ann,
    Thanks so much for coming by! Great to see you here.
    Yes, it must have been a huge shock. Wild, untamed Texas as opposed to Alsace Lorraine, France in the 1840s, or regency England. They came as farmers, built their town and adjusted to life in Texas with a little help from the Rangers. :-)

  23. Jeanmarie,
    WHAT A GREAT POST! Loved the picture of them all lined up, too. I'm in Oklahoma, but I'm always kidding with Celia and telling her I'm only here because my ancestors came THROUGH Texas (they stayed for a couple of generations before crossing the Red River). So everything I write is set in TX or OK. I love your post about the Rangers. I have not written a book yet using a Texas Ranger as my hero, but I've used plenty of Indian Territory marshals.

    Great research and a very interesting post. Gerard Butler certainly has my vote for the part. For any part, actually. I'm also cheering for the TEXAS RANGERS (baseball) too! What a miracle team they are, and nothing against the Yankees, I'm just glad to see the Rangers getting their bats on the balls and doing so well. It's time!



  24. Celia, but the photo from the Ranger Hall of Fame of John C. Hays looks so much like Gerard Butler. I guess you haven't seen all of Butler's movies. :-) As writers, we can just imagine.

  25. Hi Cheryl!
    Thanks for commenting. Marshals in Indian Territory. There's plenty of stories there. You must have a wealth of inspiration from both Texas and Oklahoma. I've only driven through Oklahoma. I hope to take a more leisurely drive through that state some time. There is so much to see. I'd love to walk through the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

    The Rangers baseball team has been doing great! Whoever wins, Yankees :-), or Rangers, they're both great teams. Can't dispute that.

  26. Interesting blog.
    When I was a child (many years ago) there was a TV seies called the Texas Rangers. I used to love it.


  27. What a great post-educational also.
    I am not a native Texan and probably would be considered a squatter having only lived here 22 years. I love reading about how people lived during that time. The adventurous spirit and bravery they exhibited is wonderful. Thanks for sharing a little piece of history.

  28. Margaret,
    Thanks so much for you comment! Yes, wouldn't it be great to have another TV show about Texas Rangers. The more accurate the better. :-)

  29. Ruby,
    Thank you for coming by!
    Yes, I'm amazed as well by how they survived back in those early days on the frontier. I don't think I would have been that brave.
    So glad you enjoyed the post. Have you checked out The Handbook of Texas On-line? It's a fascinating web site full of the history of Texas. :-)


Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West! We are very sad to require comment moderation now due to the actions of a few spam comments. Thank you for your patience.